How successful people turn trials into triumphs

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

Imagine you are going to spend two weeks with your wife and three teens after four months for the second time in over a year. How would you like to spend those two weeks?

For me, it was an opportunity for husband and daddy duties. I will let you figure out “husband” duties.

My “daddy” duties include school pickup, helping with homework, attending football practice and hanging out. My trip this month was busier than usual. We finally convinced our second daughter, Maya, to go to the gym. Daughter number one, Sophia, passed her driving test.

Yet, for the first time in 12 years, I travelled back with a heavy heart. Not that I am always happy to leave home.  But, this time, I saw two of my babies bawl their eyes out in the face of rejection.

My wife and I have always encouraged our kids to pursue their dreams passionately.

We remind them of this:

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”  – Eleanor Roosevelt

 Maya loves music, design and the arts. She excitedly signed up to audition for an upcoming high school musical. “I like the Lion King, dad.” I was happy to pick her up from school after her audition. I was sitting behind the wheel when she dropped her bags in the boot and came to sit in the front passenger seat.

“Good evening, daddy.” I looked at her with a grin as I enquired about the audition. She let it all out, and my heart sank. She said crying – “I did not get any part, dad, not even in the ensemble.” I did my best to hold back my emotions while trying to encourage my baby girl. Was I wrong in telling her she should have the courage to pursue her dreams? Did I fail her by not preparing her to face rejection? Should I tell her to let it go or should I tell her to keep trying? The crying had downgraded to sobs by the time we got home 30 minutes later. But I knew it was time to bring my coaching skills home. I planned to have a follow-up chat with her two days later when she would have a better frame of mind.

A few days later, a sports talk show was airing an interview with the CEO of David’s new football club as I drove into our garage. I called out for David to come and listen with me in the car. After a few minutes of no response, I rushed upstairs to find out what was the strange sound coming from his room. I opened his bathroom door to see him still in his football gear. The white socks were dark brown, and his shorts were covered in mud from playing in the rain. But my boy was visibly shaking, crying his eyes out. The cry was so heavy he could not put two words together. When he could finally string a sentence, he told me the coach might cut him out of the team for a tournament over the weekend. I hugged him until he calmed down. Then took him for a drive and a chat. He got himself together and made practice the next day. But I could see he was not his usual jolly self. I asked him why he thought he was struggling with his new team. “My former teammates trusted me.” I was speechless for a few minutes. Then we talked about ways he can earn his new teammates’ trust. But that was not the end of it.

I went to see a match the morning of the day I was travelling back to Dubai. Under a pouring rain and a waterlogged pitch, his team lost 2-1. Although he scored his team’s only goal, he was crushed and gutted. Not because his team were knocked out but because he felt he was responsible for their loss.

The images of Maya crying while I drove her home, of David crying in his bathroom and seeing him almost losing his confidence left me with a very heavy heart. I could not have a minute of shuteye from about 7 PM when the flight left Johannesburg until eight hours later when we touched down at Dubai International.

Did I say enough to help Maya and David get over their disappointments? How can I help them develop the mental strength to rediscover their love for what they do? As their father, I want to shield them from the pain. But I need them to learn that:

  • Failure and rejection are part of the growth process.
  • Nothing in life worth pursuing would be easy; and
  • We cannot quit at the first sign of risk, resistance or rejection.

They need to learn how to regulate their emotions, manage their thoughts and remain positive no matter the challenges they may be facing. They need to be mentally strong.

And if you are going through any situation like Maya and David, the following tips will help you develop the mental strength to be more resilient.

  • Do not stop believing in yourself

The trait is foundational to success. We will fail the day we begin to doubt ourselves. I over-emphasised this point to Maya and David, encouraging you to make it your most important value. I told David he will start scoring goals again when he regains his self-belief.

  • Maintain control

Be in control of your thoughts, feelings and emotions at all times. No person or situation should make you surrender or lose control.

  • Embrace change

Change is an important part of growth. Learn to adapt to new environments, new rules and new demands. Accepting change helps us to step out of our comfort zone to where growth happens. Do not fear the unknown, embrace the adventure. Maya loves public speaking and stepping into acting requires change which she must accept.

  •  Accept failure as part of the process

I reminded David about how the high school basketball coach kicked Michael Jordan out of the team. And I reminded Maya of how producers told Ophrah Winfrey that she was not fit for TV. And I reminded them of many rejections J. K. Rowling endured before breaking through with Harry Porter. Everyone who has done something great had to face failure and rejection. A person with a growth mindset moves forward after every failure.

  • Don’t dwell on the past

We should not dwell on past successes. And we should not use past failures or mistakes to beat ourselves up. Past failures should be lessons, and past successes should build confidence. But dwelling on the past can impair our vision of the future.

  •  Prepare to take risks

I wanted David to understand that he was taking a risk going to a new team, a new league to face a bigger challenge. But we cannot achieve our potential without taking risks.

  • Take time to reflect

One way to reflect can be to keep a journal because it helps us reflect. And through that reflection, we learn to think clearly to make better decisions, confront our fears and appreciate ourselves more.

  • Set realistic goals and expectations

Most disappointments stem from our lofty expectations. It is important to accept that building anything that will last takes time. While it is good to set goals, I explained to Maya that it might be unrealistic to expect she can break into the cast at the first audition. She needs to take time to learn the arts.

 These practices and behaviours will help you reduce stress, have peace of mind and improve your productivity.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *